Nov 16, 2015 11:50 PM

Hassan comes under fire from Democrats for Syrian refugee pushback

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD – Monday afternoon Gov. Maggie Hassan became the first Democratic governor to call for a complete freeze of Syrian refugees entering the United States until the government can assure that the vetting process is strong enough to “ensure the safety of the American people.”

By Monday evening Hassan was criticized by a leading progressive organization and by a neighboring Democratic governor.

Hassan, who’s challenging GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte in next year’s Senate election, joined nearly two dozen Republican governors in urging the White House change course when it comes to allowing 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country next year. Many of the governors point to the Paris terrorist attacks as proof that it’s too risky to provide a haven in the U.S. for those fleeing Syria’s bloody civil war. One of the attackers in Paris appeared to enter Europe posing as a refugee.

“The Governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people,” said the governor’s communications director, William Hinkle, in a statement.

Later Monday a second Democratic governor, Montana’s Steve Bullock, joined in the pushback of the White House.

Regardless of the moves by nearly half the nation’s governors, the administration is not changing course. President Obama spoke out on the plight of the refugees, saying at a news conference Monday from the G-20 Summit in Turkey that “they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife.”

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat said Monday that his state’s willing to accept those fleeing the fighting in Syria and he criticized those governors who tried to stop refugees from entering their states.

“The governors who are taking those actions are stomping on the qualities that make America great,” he told reporters according to the Burlington Free Press.

Shumlin, like Hassan, is a supporter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Clinton, along with President Obama, supports allowing up to 10,000 refugees into the U.S.

While Shumlin didn’t mention Hassan by name, the progressive organization did.

"It is incredibly disappointing to see Democratic Governor and Senate candidate Maggie Hassan join with her far right-wing Republican counterparts in threatening to refuse entry for Syrian refugees to her state. When politicians use fear or racism to win elections, we should condemn that action—not reward it. Democrats need to stand up to the growing anti-Muslim rhetoric now more than ever,” said Political Action executive director Ilya Sheyman, in a statement.

“Slamming the door on Syrian refugees, as Gov. Hassan has suggested doing, would punish families, many of whom are fleeing the same terrorist groups behind the attacks in Paris, Beirut, and around the world,” Sheyman added.

Hassan’s move puts her on the same page as Ayotte.

The GOP senator told NH1 News in a statement that “The administration should revisit its refugee policy in light of the Paris attacks, and I believe that no refugee related to the Syria crisis should be brought to New Hampshire or anywhere in the U.S. unless the government can 100 percent guarantee that they are not affiliated with ISIS.”

Ayotte first made her comments in a radio interview on “New Hampshire Today” with Jack Heath, live on 99.1 NH1 News.

NH1 News correspondent Colleen Shaughnessy contributed to this report

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